Instant Pot Chana Masala (Punjabi Chole) is a home-style Indian chickpea curry recipe made with chickpeas cooked in an aromatic tomato-onion gravy. Make it in the Instant Pot or any pressure cooker, and serve with Vegetable Pulao or Basmati Rice
About this recipe
There are many versions of the very popular Chana Masala recipe. Many of us are familiar with the North Indian version of this chickpea curry - Punjabi Chole, which is served with Naan or Bhatura and is a staple meal in Delhi.
The basic Chana Masala is made by cooking soaked white chickpeas (aka Garbanzo Beans or Kabooli Channa) in a gravy of onions, tomatoes, and whole and powdered spices. The spices range from turmeric, dry mango powder (amchur), and bay leaves (tej patta). For ease and convenience, I use store-bought packaged chole masala or chana masala but the spice mixture is easy to make fresh at home.
In the recipe for authentic Punjabi Chole, tea leaves/tea-bags are also added to the recipe while it cooks, to give it a slightly smoky flavor and a darker color. This dark brown color and smoky taste are what make Punjabi Chole different from other versions of Channa Masala.
Traditional channa masala is made by pressure cooking the chickpeas separately and then adding them to the chana masala gravy that is made in a separate wok/kadai. The chickpeas and gravy are then simmered together until the gravy is thick and coats the chickpeas.
I prefer to save time by making Chana Masala or Punjabi Chole in the Instant Pot in one go. The soaked chickpeas are cooked together with the masala and spices and everything gets done in one pot with very little supervision. Easy to clean up later too!
What is the difference between Channa Masala and Chole Masala?
The question of which spice blend to use always comes up when making chole or channa masala. It is important to understand that ‘Channa Masala’ is a more generic term for chickpea curry, and the spice blends will differ across regions.
However, Punjabi Chole is a traditional recipe originating from Punjab and the spice blend used for this recipe always includes powdered pomegranate seeds (anardana), gooseberry (amla) and dry mango powder (amchur). The result is a tangy, smoky flavor. To intensify this smokiness and flavor, tea bags are also added while pressure cooking.
So which spice blend should you use? You can use either Channa Masala or Punjabi Chole masala spice blends that you get at local Indian stores. The taste will vary, and Punjabi chole will be tangier and smokier than Channa Masala.
Which brand or Channa Masala or Chole Masala spice blends should you go for? I recommend using either Everest or MDH brand of channa or chole masala. If you use these spice blends, there is no need to make a fresh batch at home, as they are good quality and you can store them in air-tight containers once you’ve opened a pack.
Homemade Channa Masala Spice Blend
If you prefer to make your spice blend at home or if you are unable to access Chole masala or channa masala spice blends for some reason. You can certainly make the masala blend at home. To make a basic Channa Masala spice blend, you will need the following ingredients:
- 5-6 cloves
- 1 inch cinnamon stick
- 2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 4 green cardamom pods
- 6-7 Black Peppercorns
- ¼ tsp Turmeric powder
- ½ tsp Kashmiri Red Chili powder
- 1 tablespoon dry mango (amchur) powder
Additional spices for Punjabi Chole :
- Anardana powder (powdered pomegranate seeds)
- Amla powder (dehydrated powdered gooseberry)
Here's how you make it:
On a hot cast iron pan or frying pan on the stovetop, dry roast the whole spices (not including turmeric powder, Red Chili powder, and amchur powders) for 3-4 minutes, until aromatic.
Transfer to a spice mixer or coffee grinder. Grind to a fine powder. Add in turmeric powder, Red Chili powder, and amchur powders.
To make Punjabi Chole powder spice blend, add in the amla and anardana powders. Transfer the spice blend into an air-tight spice jar and use as needed.
(Check out the recipe card at the end of this page for the exact ingredients with measurements)
Channa Masala Spice Powder - Use either store-bought or homemade Chana Masala Spice blend (recipe above). If making Punjabi Chole, use the Chole Spice blend (see above).
Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans or Kabooli Channa) - Use chickpeas that have been soaked overnight or for at least 4 hours. Before using, drain the water used to soak the chickpeas.
Oil - Use regular vegetable oil, or ghee for more flavor and a richer-taste
Tomatoes - I have used fresh tomatoes, blended to a puree. You can also use canned tomatoes. Additionally, I have added some concentrated tomato paste for the additional umani and depth of flavor.
Tea Bags - This is an additional ingredient used if you are making Punjabi Chole, and not regular Chana Masala. The addition or 2 tea bags while pressure cooking the ingredients will make the Chole taste smoky and give it a darkish hue.
Step by Step Recipe
In the Instant Pot, start by heating the oil in 'Saute' mode. Once hot, add the whole cumin (jeera). Add the chopped onion, bay leaves and saute for 3-4 minutes.
Add the blended tomatoes, followed by the spice powders - Chana Masala (or Punjabi Chole Masala spice blend), turmeric, amchur, Kashmiri red chili powder, coriander powder, amchur powder, ginger garlic paste (or freshly minced ginger and garlic). Saute for 2 minutes.
Add the soaked and drained chickpeas, followed by water, salt, tomato paste.
Optional step for Punjabi Chole Masala - add in two teabags at this stage, and mix well.
Pressure Cook the chickpeas on High Pressure for 30 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally. After the valve drops, open the lid of the Instant Pot. Using your spatula, gently smash some of the chickpeas and mix them into the gravy to thicken it.
And that's it! You Chana Masala is now ready to be served with Naan or Basmati rice or Vegetable Pulao. If you've followed the additional few steps I shared above and made Punjabi Chole, you can serve it with Bhatura.
Chana masala is perfect for meal planning, you can make a big batch ahead of time and store it in the fridge for up to 4 days, and use as needed. In fact, if made ahead, the flavors of the masalas mature and the curry tastes even better after a day or two. Chana Masala and Chole also keep very well when frozen. You can store it in the freezer in freezer-safe bags for up to 2 months.
Use canned chickpeas if you haven't soaked the beans and want to make chana masala in under 20 minutes. The pressure cooking time required for canned beans is just 10 minutes.
Channa Masala & Punjabi Chole Recipe
- 1¼ cups dry chickpeas soaked overnight in 5 cups of water
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil or use ghee
- 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste or use freshly minced ginger and garlic
- 2 Onions finely chopped
- 2 large tomatoes blended smooth or use 1 cup canned tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons concentrated tomato paste
- 2 cups water for cooking
- Whole Cumin
- Bay Leaves
Additional Ingredient for Punjabi Chole
- 2 teabags
- 1½ teaspoon kosher salt add as per your taste
- In the Instant Pot, start by heating the oil in 'Saute' mode. Once hot, ad the whole cumin (jeera). Add the chopped onion, bay leaves and saute for 3-4 minutes.
- Add the blended tomatoes, followed by the spice powders - Chana Masala (or Punjabi Chole Masala spice blend), turmeric, amchur, Kashmiri red chili powder, coriander powder, amchur powder, ginger garlic paste (or freshly minced ginger and garlic). Saute for 2 minutes.
- Add the soaked and drained chickpeas, followed by water, salt, tomato paste.
Additional Step for Punjabi Chole
- Add in two teabags at this stage, and mix all the ingredients well.
- Pressure Cook the chickpeas on High Pressure for 30 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally. After the valve drops, open the lid of the Instant Pot.
- Using your spatula, gently smash some of the chickpeas and mix them into the gravy to thicken the gravy.
- Garnish with a squeeze of lime, chopped cilantro, and onions.
- Chana Masala or Punjabi Chole is now ready to be served with Naan or Basmati rice or Bhature.